In the story "Once upon a Time," what stylistic device does Gordimer use that creates the emotional background of children stories?

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In "Once upon a Time," Nadine Gordimer uses allusions to the bedtime story as a stylistic device that evokes the emotional background present in many children's stories. The frame story begins with the narrator having been asked to write a children's story and refusing. She then tells herself "a bedtime...

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In "Once upon a Time," Nadine Gordimer uses allusions to the bedtime story as a stylistic device that evokes the emotional background present in many children's stories. The frame story begins with the narrator having been asked to write a children's story and refusing. She then tells herself "a bedtime story" to help herself fall asleep. 

Elements of bedtime stories that Gordimer weaves into the tale she tells include the witch, the dragon's teeth, and the phrase "happily ever after." In the story the narrator tells, the "living happily ever after" comes first rather than at the end. This may put the reader on alert right away. We know that once the characters are living happily ever after, there are no more troubles and nothing more to tell about them. If a story begins with them living happily ever after, we suspect that state will not endure.

When the dragon appears near the end of the story—actually a fence topper designed by "DRAGON'S TEETH"—it is actually willingly brought to the family's home despite the woman's misgivings about it. She shudders at the sight of it at a neighboring home, and she "hope[s] the cat will take heed." Knowing the treachery of dragons in most bedtime stories, readers feel dread. In the final paragraph, Gordimer overtly alludes to a specific bedtime story, "Sleeping Beauty," as the little boy attempts to play-act the hero and is destroyed by the Dragon's Teeth.

By choosing the stylistic device of the bedtime story but turning it on its head, Gordimer gives readers much to think about that will shake them out of the complacency of thinking they can live happily ever after in a world where they ignore the suffering of others.

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